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HEALTHY MADE EASY
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Teens & Supplements Series: Creatine [With Infographic]

What You Need to Know:

▪ Creatine is a molecule involved in energetic reactions in the body.

▪ Creatine is not a steroid nor does it act like a hormone, contrary to popular belief.

▪ The effectiveness of creatine is proven and is also safe for use in teens and adults. 

▪ There are a number of conditions that need to be met before the teen athlete can be recommended to take creatine supplements. 


About BodyandScience’s “Teens & Supplements” Series

Sporty teenagers are an attractive target for nutritional supplements as they may easily be influenced by strong marketing strategies employed by companies. 

Without the necessary knowledge it is almost certain that they will either buy a supplement that is not suitable for them, that does little to help them, rips them off financially and may possibly even be doing harm to their bodies.

The goal of this series of articles on bodyandscience.com is to educate parents and teens about supplements, to assist them in making educated choices.

In this article we take a look at creatine supplementation, as creatine is a go-to supplement for teenage athletes (and one that makes their parents cringe!).

About Creatine

Creatine, often believed to be a steroid, is a molecule that carries ATP (the cellular energy currency) to fuel energy-demanding reactions in the body, including muscle contraction and even brain energy metabolism. 

Supplementation serves to increase the quantity of creatine in the body or offset the effects of certain diets (e.g. low meat intake or vegan diets) on natural creatine levels. 

Creatine is one of the most heavily scientifically researched and validated nutritional compounds in the world. 

Creatine’s use is also not limited to sports as it has also been evaluated as a potential therapeutic agent to treat a number of medical conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as traumatic brain injury.

A word on Creatine’s Safety and Effectiveness.

Creatine hit the supplement shelves in the early 1990s and ever since creatine supplementation has been the target for criticism by anecdotal and media reports as a dangerous and unnecessary practice.

Creatine is often considered as a “gateway” supplement leading to anabolic steroid abuse, although expert panels like the International Society of Sports Nutrition strongly disagree. 

Creatine is one of the very few nutritional supplement ingredients that is backed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) The latter organisation even approved a claim to be made, namely that Creatine supplementation increases physical performance during repeated bouts of short-term, high-intensity exercise, when taken in doses of at least 3g a day”.

The EFSA, after evaluating the scientific evidence supporting health claims for thousands of nutritional compounds, either authorises or rejects health claims to be made provided.  Creatine’s positive opinion from the EFSA speaks volumes about the safety and effectiveness of the compound.

This means that vendors of Creatine supplements can claim these benefits of creatine when marketing their product.

However, there are important steps that a teenager needs to follow, as laid out below.

Teens and Creatine: Key Steps to Follow  [infographic]

Our recommendations 

Supplement selectionchoose a pure creatine monohydrate supplement. Lots of creatine supplements come with added ingredients including stimulants, which are not recommended. 

Protocol: the standard protocol is to take 5g of Creatine a day after training, diluted in water. 


About the Author

Veeraj Goyaram

MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.

Veeraj is passionate about researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. As a former research student at the University of Cape Town, Veeraj examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by lifting weights and taking daily walks. 

 

 

Teens & Supplements Series: Preworkout Energy Supplements [With Infographic]

What You Need to Know:

▪ Preworkouts are stimulant-based supplements that are taken before training to boost energy and endurance.

▪ Preworkouts are based on high doses of caffeine, the main active ingredient in these products.

▪ Excessive caffeine is not recommended as it can give cardiovascular side effects and cause dependence.

▪ Many preworkout ingredients besides caffeine have good safety and efficacy ratings but are used in ineffective amounts. Others, like herbal ingredients, are not always effective.

▪ It is not advisable for teens to use preworkout supplements. A solid meal, a shake and a regular cup of coffee can do the trick. 


About the Teens & Supplements Series

Sporty teenagers are an attractive target for nutritional supplements as they may easily be influenced by strong marketing strategies employed by companies. 

Without the necessary knowledge it is almost certain that they will either buy a supplement that is not suitable for them, that does little to help them, rips them off financially and may possibly even be doing harm to their bodies.

The goal of this series of articles on bodyandscience.com is to educate parents and teens about supplements, to assist them in making educated choices.

In this article we take a look at preworkout supplements, which are a very common and high selling category.

What are Pre-Workout Supplements?

“Preworkouts” are supplements designed to give a rapid energy boost before workouts. They are very popular among both endurance and strength athletes as well as gym goers. 

Preworkouts are also commonly advertised as products that increase mental focus, improve blood flow and tissue oxygenation, and increase workout endurance.

Parents’ Guide to Preworkout Ingredients [infographic]

Practical Recommendations

▪ Think Preworkout food: ensure you are getting the right nutrition before workouts by taking in proteins and carbohydrates, the proper fuels for your workout. An example is a chicken wrap and a large banana or apple. Alternatively, a well-formulated pre-exercise shake can do the job. Keep fibre and fat to a minimum as they can slow down digestion and cause gastrointestinal distress while you are exercising. 

▪ Be well rested: get proper rest by sleeping at least 8 hours on the eve. There’s no need to make up for lack of sleep by ingesting preworkouts or energy drinks. 

▪ An occasional cup of coffee: coffee can provide a good boost. Drink only when really necessary for best effect.


About the Author

Veeraj Goyaram

MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.

Veeraj is passionate about researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. As a former research student at the University of Cape Town, Veeraj examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

Teens & Supplements Series: Testosterone Boosters

What You Need to Know:

▪ Testosterone booster supplements are attractive to teens wishing to improve sports performance.

▪ The safety and effectiveness of these supplements have not been established.

▪ Testosterone boosting supplements are simply a waste of money and can potentially be dangerous.

▪ In most cases, teens already have an optimal level of testosterone and there is no need to try increase it. 


About the Teens & Supplements Series

Sporty teenagers are an attractive target for nutritional supplements as they may easily be influenced by strong marketing strategies employed by supplement manufacturers. 

Without the necessary knowledge it is almost certain that teens will either buy a supplement that is not suitable for them, that does little to help them, rips them off financially and may possibly even be doing harm to their bodies.

The goal of this series of articles on bodyandscience.com is to educate parents and teens about supplements to assist them in making educated choices.

In this article we focus on testosterone booster supplements, which are very enticing to teenage athletes seeking enhanced performance. 

What are Testosterone Boosters?

Testosterone boosters, as implied by the name, are marketed as products that push the body to produce more testosterone. They are commonly sold in health food stores as sports supplements. 

The active ingredients in these products are often the herbal extracts of tribulus terrestris, Fenugreek and Longjack.  Some minerals like zinc and magnesium are sometimes also present. As we will see below, evidence is lacking regarding their effectiveness.

Some testosterone boosters may also be spiked with real steroids to make them work better. Caution is advised.

Weighing The Evidence

Fenugreek: found to work in a single study in resistance trained males relative to placebo. Later studies failed to replicate these results. Several lawsuits were issued to companies selling fenugreek extract for false advertising 

Tribulusstudies failed to demonstrate an increase in testosterone in healthy and exercising human subjects. The only study that showed a positive effect was carried out in impotent subjects that received a dose of 6g of a root Tribulus extract per day (far less than contained in supplements).

Longjack: The only evidence in humans for longjack boosting testosterone comes from infertile males. A small increase in testosterone was seen. No evidence available for an increase in testosterone in healthy subjects. 

Zinc-Magnesium: these two minerals are often included in testosterone boosting formulas in the form of a patented compound called ZMA (Zinc Magnesium Aspartate). The latter is claimed to increase testosterone levels, but there is no evidence to suggest that this occurs in healthy men. Men who are deficient in zinc may have affected testosterone levels and supplementation may correct the problem. If one is not deficient in zinc, supplementation won’t have any effect. 

A Word on Prohormones

Prohormones are another type of hormonal boosters, purported to convert into testosterone into the body. They are often sold “under the counter” as a safer replacement to steroids.

Prohormones often have names that are similar to common steroids. 

Teens often find them attractive because they are orally taken and thus do not require injections. 

However, the truth is that many of these “pro-hormones” are steroids in disguise as they chemically resemble steroids that are banned. Many pro-hormones have eventually been added to the list of banned substances, after unscrupulous companies have made hefty bucks from them. 

Their physiological, as well as side effects, are similar to the steroids that are banned. Oral steroids/ pro-hormones are particularly harmful to the liver. 

Take Home Messages

Teens already have an ideal amount of anabolic hormones in their body and taking booster supplements won’t give any further benefit and can prove dangerous

Parents of teens suspected of having low testosterone levels (see the symptoms of hypogonadism) are recommended to speak to a doctor to have their blood levels tested. 


About the Author

Veeraj Goyaram

MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.

Veeraj is passionate about researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. As a former research student at the University of Cape Town, Veeraj examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

Good or Bad Series: Benzoates

Benzoates are a widely used additive in food and beverage products, as well as medicine and nutritional supplements. They are used as preservatives. 

Benzoates work by preventing the growth and survival of microorganisms that cause food spoilage, thereby extending the shelf life of the product containing them.

Two benzoate salts are commonly used in products, namely Sodium Benzoate (E211) and Potassium Benzoate (E212).

Tip: Sometimes the names of the preservatives are given on the ingredient list, otherwise they are simply listed as “preservatives” with the E number given in brackets. 

Potential Hazards of Benzoates

Benzoates are used in food products because they have been “generally recognised as safe”. However, many additives that are now banned had at one point been recognised as safe.

In the case of benzoates, several studies have found that there are potential side effects which warrant consideration. 

It is important to note that the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for benzoic acid and benzoate salts established by Food and Agriculture Organization/ World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives is 0 to 5 mg per body weight.

While the ADI is unlikely to be exceeded for average consumers, high daily consumers of soda and juices, which contain high amounts of benzoates, may exceed the ADI.

  • Hyperactive behaviours

As we explained in our article, Sodium benzoate in combination with artificial food coloring can increase hyperactivity in young children. In a pilot study, a higher intake of beverages containing sodium benzoate was associated with more symptoms of ADHD in college students (ref).

  • Formation of benzene (a potential carcinogen)

When combined with vitamin C, sodium benzoate can also be converted into a benzene, a compound that may be associated with cancer development. 

In 2007, many soft drink companies were faced with lawsuits as their drinks contained benzoate-vitamin C combination. A reformulation of drinks that excluded the use of vitamin C was necessary. 

Practical Recommendations

A. Avoid or minimise your intake of foods containing added benzoates. Check the labels of your food carefully and look out for E211 and E212 on the ingredient list. 

B. Avoid products that contain the above especially if combined with a source of vitamin C or ascorbic acid.

C. Avoid products that contain benzoates in combination with artificial food colourants. 

About the Author

Veeraj Goyaram, MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.

Veeraj is passionate about researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. As a former research student at the University of Cape Town, Veeraj examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

Teens & Supplements Series: Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are sweetened and flavoured drinks containing water, carbohydrates, salts and colourants as main ingredients. Sports drinks are also available in powder format for the user to reconstitute in water. 

However, sports drinks in ready-to-drink are the more popular format and are sold in most grocery stores.

Sports drinks are not to be confused with energy drinks which are basically similar in formulation, but contain added caffeine. 

While sports drinks were designed for individuals participating in physical activity of prolonged duration, they are now commonly consumed by youths worldwide, as a daily drink. 

The health consequences of using sports drinks outside of a sports context can be significant.

Why are Sports Drinks so popular?

Sports drinks are commonly consumed by non-athletes mainly for quenching thirst, as a substitute for carbonated soda drinks and as an energy source.

Sports drinks are also believed to be healthier than carbonated soda drinks because of the way they are marketed and the use of sportspeople in marketing campaigns. Sports drinks also contain slightly lower amounts of sugar (7-8% sugar) than carbonated soda drinks (10%).

Manufacturers also target adolescents in their marketing by using product names that appeal to that consumer group, athletes that the latter look up to or social media influencers. For instance, Gatorade regraded their drink as “G-Series” as the name is more attractive to teens.

Dangers of Using Sports Drinks as a “Thirst Quencher Drink”.

Excessive Sugar intake: Sports drinks contain about 8% carbohydrates which means that a typical 250ml bottle packs about 20g of sugar (5 teaspoons).

The sugars in sports drinks can lead to excessive caloric intake, which can increase children’s and adolescents’ risk for becoming overweight and obese. It is easier to overconsume sugar in the form of drinks compared to, say, fruits. 

Dental health: citric acid used in sports drinks can cause dental enamel erosion when consumed excessively (see guidelines below). The sugars in the drinks are also acted upon by oral bacteria, leading to dental caries. 

Nutrient imbalances: sports drinks typically contain about 200mg of Sodium per serving. Excessive Sodium intake increases the risk of high blood pressure. Sports drinks are typically devoid of micronutrients like vitamins and have been found to be negatively associated with milk and Calcium, Vitamin D, Folate and Iron, etc. (ref)

Unhealthy additives: sports drinks tend to contain potentially harmful additives like artificial food colourants and preservatives 

Our Recommendations:

Sports drinks have an important, specific role in the diet of young athletes who are engaged in prolonged vigorous sports activity—primarily to rehydrate and replenish carbohydrate, electrolytes, and water lost during exercise. 

Sports drinks are recommended for physical activities lasting more than 1 hour. Common examples include: rugby training, marathon training and races, competitive soccer and tennis matches, and long cycling races. 

 For any activity lasting less than 1 hour, especially in normal weather conditions, sports drinks are not recommended. Water can do the job very well. 

 A pre-exercise meal or shake can serve to load up on energy before exercise lasting less than 1 hour. 

 For daily hydration, water or milk fit the bill perfectly. 

 

Author Bio
Veeraj Goyaram, MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology with Human Nutrition research project

Veeraj’s is passionate about the research and development of nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he conducted lab research on the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps fit by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

4 Types of Additives That Shouldn’t Be In Your Protein Powder

A good protein supplement is a healthy addition to the family’s diet, to assist in meeting daily protein needs. 

However, with so many brands on the shelves nowadays, choosing a good products seems to be a tough mission.

One of the ways to shortlist good brands is to read the ingredients list and spot some additives that are best to avoid. 

Here we look at 4 such additives to watch out for

Additive 1: Artificial Sweeteners

Most protein powders are sweetened with artificial sweeteners because they do typically have very high sweetening power and do not contain calories.  

Commonly used sweeteners powders are cyclamates, aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin and sucralose.

Among the artificial sweeteners, sucralose has the best safety rating and a product containing it as a sole sweetener is okay to use. Otherwise, look for a protein powder that has been sweetened with stevia.

Some protein powders are often sweetened with sugar alcohols like xylitol. However, it is recommended to avoid xylitol-sweetened proteins, which are quite rare, as they come with potential side-effects.

Additive 2: Artificial colourants

Colourants are used in protein powders as they give an attractive look to the product.

Some protein powders contain artificial colourants like Ponceau (E144) for red colouration and sunset yellow (E110) for a yellowish colouration. Interestingly, some of these colourants are banned in the US (e.g. Ponceau) but used in other countries.

Furthermore, artificial colourants can lead to hyperactive behaviours in susceptible children, as covered in our article.

When in doubt in the shop aisle, a quick google search may be necessary to check on these ingredients.

The best thing to do is to select a protein supplement with either no colourants or one that has been coloured with natural food colourants like beetroot juice powder, beta-carotene or cocoa powder.

Additive 3: Fat powders/ creamers

With competition in the protein powder space being fierce, many brands resort to taste as a key selling point. This often entails the use of sensory enhancers like creamers.

The latter increase the creaminess of the shake for a more pleasant mouthfeel. Fats present in the creamers are what give the creaminess. However, these fats are often the partially hydrogenated type (e.g. hydrogenated palm oil) which contain harmful trans-fats. 

If you consume several shakes a day on a daily basis, the numbers can add up.

Additive 4: Thickeners and gums 

These are used to increase the viscosity of a shake.

Commonly used thickeners are xanthan and cellulose gum because they do their intended job without contributing to calories. 

However, thickeners may cause gut irritation in susceptible individuals and it is best to avoid or minimise the intake of products containing them. 

 

Author Bio
Veeraj Goyaram, MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology with Human Nutrition research project

Veeraj’s passion revolves around researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously based as a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

 

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